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Metro allows Wilsonville to add Frog Pond South and East to its urban growth boundary

SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO - Frog Pond South, which already includes Meridian Creek Middle School, was added to the urban growth boundary along with Frog Pond East. With interior residential expansion reaching its limits, the City of Wilsonville is expanding outward to bolster its housing allotment.

In December, the Metro regional government added the Frog Pond South and East neighborhoods, which combine to form a 271-acre urban reserve parcel that could lead to the development of 1,325 homes in the coming decades, into the urban growth boundary. Frog Pond East is located east of Stafford Road and north of Advance Road and Frog Pond South is located next to Frog Pond East but south of Advance Road.

Wilsonville had previously applied without success for the two neighborhoods to join the UGB and Community Development Director Chris Neamtzu provided context for why Metro might have accepted the recent proposal.

For one, in 2015, for the first time ever, Metro decided not to expand the urban growth boundary at all. And in the subsequent few years, cities across the region have dealt with housing costs and scarcity. This time around, Metro not only greenlighted Wilsonville's proposal but also signed off on residential growth in King City, Beaverton and Hillsboro.

"I'm no enthusiast for urban growth boundary expansions," said Metro Councilor Bob Stacey in a Metro press release. "But if you gotta do it, and I think we do this time, then you should be doing it right, and I think we're doing it right this time."

Also, Neamtzu said Metro's decision to change its UGB expansion approval process led to better results. Previously, Metro made decisions based primarily on theoretical population projections rather than assessing the viability of development in expansion areas, according to Metro's 2018 UGB Report. But this time, Metro required cities to submit a concept plan that detailed how the city planned to facilitate expansion and how the expansion would help address the region's needs.

"An outcomes-based approach acknowledges that development will only occur when there is adequate governance, infrastructure finance, and market demand, and, therefore, any discussion of adding land to the UGB should focus on identifying areas with those characteristics," the UGB growth report states.

Neamtzu said he has witnessed six UGB expansion deliberations in his career and said this year's was the most effective.

"The process to create a plan based on outcomes is a significant breakthrough," he said. "We went from talking about esoteric numbers to talking about a specific place and the outcomes you want to achieve based on the creation of real neighborhoods and places we can relate to and understand."

Neamtzu said the establishment of the Meridian Creek Middle School, which is located in Frog Pond South, as well as Wilsonville's plans for neighborhood connectivity and parks helped sell the City's land expansion proposal.

"We now have a high quality 21st century school in the middle of a residential neighborhood," Neamtzu said. "It's very nice to have a school as a center point of community."

Wilsonville's land expansion means the city's population, which has skyrocketed in the last two decades, will continue to trend upward.

According to the Portland State University Population Center, Wilsonville grew from 24,315 residents to 25,250 residents from 2017 to 2018, a 3.8 percent uptick. Meanwhile, according to the Metro regional government projections, Wilsonville is projected to have a population of 27,046 residents by 2040. But with the Frog Pond West neighborhood assumed to bring in over 500 homes and Frog Pond South and East adding over 1,300 more, those projections might be conservative.

"Wilsonville has always been a percentage or two above the population forecasts," Neamtzu said.

Neamtzu also noted that there are a few chunks of urban reserve land in the Wilsonville area that Metro could eventually add to the urban growth boundary such as an area 60 acres south of Graham Oaks Park and another a couple hundred acres north of Villebois. He said Wilsonville City Council could create a strategy for the land in the coming years.

For many residents, more growth signifies exacerbating traffic. But Neamtzu said Frog Pond will include a fleshed out transportation network and potential improvements to I-5 could help quell concerns.

And part of the City's rationale for adding housing is to come as close as possible to matching housing with jobs so that more people can live and work in Wilsonville and thus less frequently clog up regional highways. The City had a population of 20,550 and 17,823 jobs in 2012 and a population of 23,740 and 20,317 jobs in 2016.

"We can't make people live close by, but we can give them an option of finding housing close by to those new jobs," Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp said in the Metro press release.

However, Neamtzu noted that Wilsonville's fast growth over the past couple decades has been in large part due to Villebois, which is much more dense than the Frog Pond neighborhoods will be.

"I think you are going to see a (growth) slow down as transition in Villebois slows down," Neamtzu said.

Frog Pond South and East are far from the point when new residents will come flocking.

The City must complete master plans for the two neighborhoods within the next four years and Neamtzu said it's difficult to assess how quickly development will trickle in afterward. But he is excited to watch the area grow.

"It's going to demonstrate the next generation of high quality Wilsonville neighborhoods," Neamtzu said.

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